City to rebuild LaSalle over two years

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January 26, 2004 // UPDATED 2:43 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Minneapolis is splitting the $3 million LaSalle Avenue rebuild over two construction seasons instead of one because the Downtown stretch from 8th Street to West Grant Street needs more work than was originally thought.

The change will prolong headaches for those who use LaSalle, a one-way southbound street, as their afternoon route out of Downtown. The city will rebuild the half-mile section from Grant Street to Franklin Avenue beginning in June and rebuild the section from 8th to Grant in 2005 or later.

The city also proposes eliminating an afternoon rush-hour driving lane that is otherwise west-side-of-the-street parking. (It would become a permanent parking lane, as on the street's east side.)

LaSalle starts at 8th, becomes Blaisdell Avenue once it crosses Franklin and ends at West 40th Street. The project will include rebuilding sidewalks, curbs, gutters, driveway aprons and the street itself.

Work is expected to continue until Thanksgiving, said Shawn O'Keefe, project manager. LaSalle will close to through traffic, maintaining access for local businesses and residents.

"We are still in the preliminary stages of how we will handle traffic rerouting," she said.

The reconfigured road will need a waiver from state lane-width limits. Currently, the east-side parking lane is 7 feet wide, the two full-time driving lanes are 11 feet wide, as is the west-side parking/drive-through lane.

The state requires drive-through lanes to be at least 13 feet wide, and 10-foot-wide parking lanes, based on LaSalle's 10,500-car-per-day traffic. Keeping four lanes would mean a 46-foot-wide LaSalle, compared to the current 40-foot-wide roadbed.

To avoid widening the road, the city proposes two 11-foot-wide driving lanes and 9-foot-wide parking lanes on either side of LaSalle -- erasing the rush hour drive-through lane, according to an O'Keefe memo.

O'Keefe said Public Works has analyzed traffic volumes and believes LaSalle can handle rush-hour traffic with two through lanes.

The City Council approved the project layout Jan. 16.

The city last rebuilt LaSalle in 1964, and the street was seal-coated in 1986. Public Works rates it in poor condition -- past the point where maintenance will ensure a safe, pothole-free surface.

Public Works initially planned to do less work on LaSalle between 8th and Grant -- a so-called mill-and-overlay, which grinds off the top 3 inches of roadway and lays a new asphalt cap.

O'Keefe said roadwork is programmed several years in advance, and recent analysis of LaSalle Downtown said it needs a total reconstruction. It will get back on the project list by 2005 at the earliest.

(Crews already upgraded a two-block stretch of LaSalle from 9th to 11th streets south, in conjunction with work at the University of St. Thomas campus, and it will not need repair.)

For more information on this and other Public Works projects, check the city's Web site at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/citywork/public-works/cip/index2004.shtml.